Any war is covered in the veil of secrets, and while some remain unrevealed, others become the subject of discussions, heated arguments and further research. Korean War, although it was not an exception, was in some way unique.
I took the courage to call the Korean War unique for several reasons. First of all, officially it's not over. The thing is that any armed conflict traditionally ends with warring sides signing a peace treaty. There was no such thing between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea. Only the cease of fire was officially announced. Secondly, the Korean War was one of the bloodiest local conflicts in the world history with the total amount of losses on the territory of Korean Peninsula reaching 2,5 million people. Finally, the war was a mixture of confrontations between two big and two small countries. In other words, if we compare this war to a chess game, the USSR and the USA were chess kings fighting an ideological war for the widening of the sphere of influence in the Far East, and the DRPK and the RK were the pawns, the instruments that were dragged into a civil war.
Some secrets of the Korean War have much to do with the parties involved. The official participants were North Korea, the Republic of Korea, People's Republic of China and the UN army with the US army: the latter was conducting a "police operation". It's worth noting that the command of the "police operation" led by General Douglas MacArthur proposed to drop the nuclear bomb on China and the losses from the American side were assessed to be 400,000 people. During the war the UN was accusing the USSR of participating in the armed conflict, claiming that the USSR was providing North Korea not only with humanitarian aid but also with personnel, although no proofs were given.
However, half a century after the cease of fire on the Korean Peninsula, after the USSR has come to an end and its archives came out into public, it turned out that Soviet Union had helped the DPRK. North Korea got the support in the harsh air battles against the US. Soviet command acted in high secrecy. All the personnel and advanced for the time jets MiG-15 were transported by railroads from the allied China to Antung Province, where an airbase was located. At the beginning it was decided to teach Chinese and North Korean soldiers to fly Soviet planes, but it was impossible due to several reasons. Firstly, language was a barrier for a full course of teaching. Moreover, Asian low-protein nutrition didn't let Koreans and Chinese handle the overloads caused by flights (the same problems were faced during the Vietnam War by both the USSR and the US). Soon enough it was decided that Soviet pilots were to fly and after that the 64 air corps received help from the 324 aviation division led by legendary Ivan Kozhedub.
It is worth mentioning that Soviet pilots were only conducting a defence mission and never attacked first. The main target of Soviet air fighters was the neutralization of American B-29, which were throwing napalm on the opposite side (it's commonly thought that napalm was massively used during the Vietnam War, however, during the 3-year long Korean War much more napalm was used than during the 10-year Vietnam War).
Ace pilot of the Korean War Eugeniy Pepelyaev recalls: "We had to fly with Korean identification marks wearing Chinese uniform. Kozhedub himself chose the pilots who either had war experience or who mastered the best jet fighter of the times – MiG 15. The Soviet pilots who participated in the battles wore the uniform of Chinese volunteers and had documents with names like Si Ni Tsyn or Lee Si Tsin. The MiGs had Korean marks. Those measures were taken in order not to encourage the condemnation of the USSR's interfering into the Korea's affairs from the UN and the world".
After the Korean War the generalized character of pilot Lee Si Tsin has become a basis for many stories and anecdotes not only about the Korean War but the War in Vietnam as well. As one could possibly have guessed, Lee Si Tsin is a transliteration of a Russian surname stylized to sound like an Asian name. But names like that are not typical both for Korea and Vietnam.
There are many Russian military songs about Lee Si Tsin, the most famous variations of which were performed by prominent Russian rock groups "Grazhdanskaya Oborona" and "Chizh & Co". Despite the fact that the appearance of the character is tightly linked to the Korean War, the songs are about Vietnam. However the idea is quite the same: an American pilot who was taken captive is asking the interrogator who shot him down. When the interrogator responds: "You were shot down by our pilot Lee Si Tsin", the American says that in his headset earphones he has clearly heard Russians speaking and that he was surely shot down by Russian ace named Ivan. It's worth noting that the name of the triple hero of the Soviet Union by surname Kozhedub is also Ivan.
There is no reliable statistics of air battles during the Korean War. Nobody can give the accurate numbers or say which side had lost more planes. And there is actually no use speaking about the statictics of war, as we're speaking about thousands of human lives…
Translated by Ksenia Kravtsova
Chizh & Co – Phantom
I'm running a scorched earth
Fixed a headset on the run
My "Phantom" as a white sparrow on a sprawled wing
Roaring and ascending.
I see the blue distance
It's so pity to disturb it.
It's a pity, that you can't see it. Our way is harsh and far.
My "Phantom" heading East.
I'm performing a left turn,
I'm a butcher now, not a pilot,
Bowing over a sight, and rockets are rushing to the aim,
One more sortie ahead.
I see the white line in the sky
My "Phantom" losing altitude
Ejector — that's salvation, and a tension on the cords,
Heart into the boots, I'm going into a spin.
Just as I landed,
A wild scream shouted out of the clusters —
Yellow-faced Vietnamese are squealing in clusters like hares,
I felt on the ground and hush.
I'm going a cursed earth again
No headset on my head
There is a gun muzzle, soldiers prod into my back
My life is now hang by a thread.
"Who's that pilot who shot me down?"
I'd asked one viet,
Those cross-eyed, who lead the interrogation, answered me:
"You were shot down by our pilot Lee Si Tsin".
You're lying for nothing, Vietnamese.
I heard clearly in my headset earphones:
"Kolya, let her rip, and I'll get him!", "Vanya, hit 'em! I'll cover you!"
Ivan the Russian Ace had shot me down.
Far away from here my native Texas,
Mother and father waiting for me there,
My "Phantom" exploded quickly in the clear blue sky,
I'll never see you again.